The Land and Water Conservation Fund
Preserving the Best of the
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act gives the authorization to provide
up to $900 million every year to purchase lands and waters for your benefit:
your quality of life.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund
Created by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
provides monies to federal, state and local governments to acquire land,
water and conservation easements on land and water for the benefit of
all Americans. From majestic forests and snow-capped mountains, to wild
rivers and lush grasslands, these acquisitions become part of our national
forests, parks, wildlife refuges and other public areas.
Lands are purchased from willing sellers at fair-market value or through
partial or outright donations of property. Landowners can also sell or
donate easements on their property that restrict commercial development
while keeping the land in private ownership.
Each year, four federal agencies—the USDA Forest Service, USDI's,
National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management—identify
important properties available for purchase. Congress appropriates
up to $900 million each year for LWCF projects.The funding for these purchases
comes primarily from revenues received from offshore oil and gas drilling.
Seven Million Acres and Counting
Over 7 million acres have been purchased with $9 billion in LWCF appropriations.
One-third of these purchases have been made by states and communities.
The Forest Service works in partnership with communities to protect nationally
designated areas including:
- wild and scenic rivers
- scenic areas
- recreation areas
- scenic trails
Your National Forests
The National Forests system encompasses more than 190 million acres of
public land, or about 25% of all forests in the country. Its 155 national
forests and 20 national grasslands are located in 44 states and Puerto
Rico, putting a national forest well within a day's drive of most Americans.
Your national forests include 423 wilderness areas in 38 states, totaling
over 35,000,000 acres. In addition, 102 wild and scenic rivers, 23 national
recreation areas and 6 national scenic areas have been designated for
public enjoyment and resource conservation.
The job of the Forest Service is to help people share and enjoy their
national forests and grasslands, while conserving the environment for
generations to come. In addition, the Forest Service assists rural communities
to improve natural resource conditions, undertakes research to find better
ways to protect and manage our public lands, and formulates policy for
the protection and management of the world's forests.
Improving Your Quality of Life
Additions to the National Forest System help maintain the quality of
life that comes from protected open space. Most of the funding for these
additions comes from the LWCF. Since its creation, the LWCF has financed
the purchase of more than 1.5 million acres of land located within or
adjacent to existing national forests and grasslands. The LWCF helps the
Forest Service acquire public land on your behalf to:
- Expand outdoor recreational opportunities
The National Forest System is the largest provider of sites for
recreation in this country. Visitors of all ages and abilities come
to hike, ski, hunt, fish, canoe, mountain bike, rock climb, snowmobile,
camp, horseback ride, windsurf and enjoy a host of other activities.
Many of our national forests are located within an hour's drive of our
largest urban areas—from Denver and Boston, to Atlanta and Los Angeles—and
serve as the primary source of open space and outdoor recreational
opportunities for millions of local residents.
- Protect clean water supplies
Forests, wetlands and other undeveloped lands naturally filter and
clean water flowing into our aquifers, reservoirs, streams and rivers.
The National Forest System encompasses the headwaters of a significant
number of water sources across America, from the Columbia River in the
west to the Susquehanna River in the east.
- Preserve wildlife habitat
Virtually every LWCF purchase benefits wildlife. In many cases, the
primary reason for purchasing a property is to preserve habitat for
wildlife, including threatened or endangered species.
- Protect cultural and historic treasures
Our country's history and identity are tied to the land. From
beds and Civil War battlefields, to remnants of ancient civilizations
and historic mining districts, cultural and historic sites help Americans
experience and learn from the societies, events and natural processes
that shape history.
- Benefit local economies
Communities benefit economically from visitors who fish, hike, ski,
or enjoy other outdoor activities. Many communities rely on traditional
natural resource-based industries, and the Forest Service works with these
local communities to make sure our nation's forests and grasslands sustain
their economic and ecological value.
How You Can Help
You can make a difference in preserving America's great outdoors. Individuals,
organizations, businesses and local governments frequently work with
the Forest Service to acquire important lands. That help takes many
- Identifying lands available for purchase
- Raising public interest in a property's acquisition
- Making a partial or outright donation of land identified for purchase
- Contacting or meeting with your Congressional delegation to discuss
the conservation value of specific properties
- Buying and holding key tracts until public funds are available
- Contributing funds to help purchase a property being acquired
- Forming partnerships with other organizations and the Forest Service
- Writing letters to the editor and articles for newspapers or magazines
in support of specific acquisitions
To offer your help or to get more information about the Forest Service
and the LWCF, contact the regional
office nearest you.